International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System
- Type: Convention
- Date of signature: 14/06/1983
- Place of signature: Brussels, Belgium
- Depositary: Secretary General of the World Customs Organization
- Date of entry into force: 01/01/1988
What is it about?
The identification of goods is an important element of customs work. Such identification allows for the correct application of customs tariffs and it improves the collection of trade statistics. The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) is an internationally accepted method for the identification of goods. The HS establishes an international nomenclature that allows goods to be categorized quickly and accurately. The harmonized system includes approximately 5000 categories of goods classified by a six-digit code. The system also contains 21 sections, 97 chapters and 1241 headings at the four-digit level, 930 of which are further divided into sub headings. States that have agreed to the Harmonized System Convention are committed to employing the six-digit system. They may also use a more detailed classification system with a greater number of digits at the national level. Goods are classified according to objective criteria that are designed to be precise in their application. The harmonized system is used by States as a foundation for commercial negotiations, the collection of data on international commerce, the control of quotas, and the application of customs tariffs. It is subject to revisions every four to six years, to reflect changes in both technology and in international trade.
Why is it relevant?
The harmonized system is used by nearly 180 countries and is applied to more than 98% of the goods traded worldwide. It is a valuable tool for the implementation of customs laws. It reduces costs for both the public and private sector, as countries do not need to invent their own classification system. Developing countries that adopt this Convention have the possibility to opt for a partial application of the harmonized system, depending upon the specifics of their administrative capacities. Technical assistance is also offered to adapt their nomenclatures to the harmonized system.
Member states of the World Customs Organization may ratify this Convention. The Harmonized System Committee is responsible for proposing amendments to the Convention and to ensure a uniform application and interpretation of the harmonized system.
- Protocol of Amendment to the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System of 14 June 1983 (Brussels, 24 June 1986)